Tuesday, May 21, 2024

White Gold is the new oil

Written By Darshan M (Grade 10)

In the next 10 years, China’s dominance as a superpower will reduce and India will emerge as a global factory of the world. That’s because we have found a mineral that is important in this century like oil was in the previous one: Lithium, also known as White Gold, and with its help, India can supercharge its growth in the future. India had discovered 5.9 Million tonnes of Lithium reserves in Jammu and Kashmir. 

Lithium-ion batters are used everywhere from small electric toys to big electric vehicles. Elon Musk has brought a revolution in the EV market and all Tesla vehicles are manufactured in China this is a problem for Elon because if China and America’s relations eventually worsen more then Tesla will have to face an end and that’s why he wants to build a lithium refinery in Texas because EV’s batteries are made up with lithium. Oil is termed Black Gold, likewise, Lithium is called White Gold. And today countries that have oil rule the world and are powerful and in the next few years countries having White Gold will emerge as global superpowers. 

Initially, lead-acid batteries were being used in the automobile industry which consume a lot of space and they were also not effective, later after the discovery of lithium-ion batteries which were effective and could store more energy were used all over the world. World’s 54% lithium is in three South American countries – Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia they are also called the Lithium triangle. Even though Argentina has lithium its economy always struggles and its inflation rate is more than Pakistan, that’s because it might have natural resources but they do not have the technology to extract lithium and they depend on other countries for that. Counties can only sell their lithium raw material but for that raw material has to be refined and the battery should be manufactured that is done in only one country and that’s China.

Love them are hate them but you cannot ignore them – China. Because today lithium-ion batteries market has grown by over $ 70 Billion and China rules the market. 80% of lithium is manufactured in China, the US makes 7% and the rest of the world 13%. Monopoly is a small world to describe China’s status in this battery market. Till we reach the year 2040 more than half of our automobile industry will be electric. China has learned the formula to dominate the world in all aspects and it also knows that clean energy is among the fastest-growing industries and it is dominating this market as well all Solar panels are made in China and cheap windmills are manufactured in China and has emerged as an expert to manufacture Lithium-ion batteries. China caught hold of the market and took timely advantage of it. In between all this, the only missing component is the world’s most populous country and a country that has the second-largest market for smartphones and the largest consumer of lithium – INDIA is far away from this market. 

India has now found 5.9 million tonnes of lithium and China has only 4.5 million tonnes left but still in terms of battery production they have left behind countries that have five times more natural resources than China. You know it’s not only about having that natural resource but the technology to extract it is equally important and the labor force requires to make finished goods. If America has Tesla we have Tata and Mahindra who are capable of producing world-class EVs in India which will fit into our budget. And are making charging networks all over India, subsidies are provided for the purchase of EVs. 

We have to lower the dependence on external resources though our vehicles are made in India but batteries are still imported from China and it is a fact that we will have to soon or later change or will never become a fully Make in India country. India will have to extract lithium and make batteries in India with the help of a public-private partnership. There is a similarity between China and India that we have cheap labor but one major difference is that China has skilled labor and we have unskilled and that’s why China has emerged as a manufacturing hub and we aren’t able to compete with them. 

Silicon Valley is upset with China after Covid and they are trying hard to look for alternatives but it is not possible. We all have to rethink can’t we manufacture a simple battery all by ourselves in India? Why should we depend on other external sources for our needs? If we catch up with the market at this right time we can stop China’s world dominance and if we have a conflict with China we can rely on our own country. 

We have to act fast. Because in 1992 we heard the same news the then director of Mineral investigations had stated that Jammu Kashmir is capable of Lithium extraction but since then there was no action taken and China then grabbed that opportunity and since then China has drastically grown. We might have missed the first phase of the electric revolution but we have a chance now because the second phase is just about to start and we can dominate the world. 

Featured Image Courtesy – Forbes


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